Emily Pitts Donahoe
Areas of Interest
Early modern literature, Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, classical and early modern rhetoric, media studies, Shakespeare and film
PhD, English, University of Notre Dame
MA, English, University of Alabama, Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies
BA, English, Austin Peay State University
Emily Pitts Donahoe recently received her PhD in English from the University of Notre Dame. She currently serves as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Notre Dame Learning, where she focuses on inclusive teaching and assessment, deliberative pedagogy, and creative approaches to teaching in the humanities.
At the Kaneb Center for Teaching Excellence, Emily co-manages the Collaborative Teaching and Learning certificate program and is also co-piloting Notre Dame’s first student/faculty pedagogical partnership program. In addition to consulting with instructors on an individual basis, she also conducts workshops on topics like “Trauma-Informed Teaching,” “Difficult Conversations in the Classroom,” and “Public Writing as a Tool for Learning.”
As a scholar and teacher, Emily is interested in persuasion and argument in moments of transformational media shift. Her work is centered in early modern England but ranges widely across fields to include drama and media studies as well as rhetoric and education. She has taught courses in writing, literature, and screen cultures.
Her first book investigates the rise of the English public theater as a form of mass entertainment and the flourishing of plays designed specifically to engage and move a rapidly emerging public audience. The advent of the public theater, like all new media forms, generated both enthusiasm about drama’s potential to transform audiences for the better and anxiety about the perils of this enterprise. Emily’s project explores how sixteenth and seventeenth-century playwrights like Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson navigated this difficult landscape, poised between visions of the theater as a center for independent thought and deliberation and as a space for the dissemination of propaganda. She argues in particular that these dramatists sought to use the theater as a site of rhetorical and political education, one that would inculcate deliberative habits of mind in its audience members and create a citizenry resistant to indoctrination. However, even as they celebrate the value of deliberation and debate, these dramatists also recognize that the elite might appropriate their methods for the purposes of political agitprop or otherwise authoritarian forms of political education. Rather than creating subjects resistant to indoctrination, the deliberative tools of the theater, these dramatists recognize, could be used to do exactly the opposite. Their plays explore the tensions between persuasion and coercion, education and indoctrination—tensions present in the humanist rhetorical tradition, in debates about the early modern theater, and in moments of media shift throughout history.
“Reading Shakespeare in a time of plague: Troilus and Cressida – portrait of a diseased body politic,” Public Seminar, May 2020
“In Utramque Partem: Arguing Both Sides of the Question in Othello.” English Literary Renaissance, vol. 48, no. 3, 2018, pp. 314-338.
“Imitation, Innovation, and Imperium: The Grammar School Education of Lear’s Daughters.” Renaissance Papers 2016, pp. 79-90.
Recent Conference Activity
“‘Let me commend the Poetical discourses’: Margaret Cavendish’s Reformation of Rhetoric and the Theater.” The Shakespeare Association of America Conference (virtual), April 2021
“‘There’s the Question’: The Deliberating Audience in Richard II and Julius Caesar.” Renaissance Society of America (virtual), April 2021
Respondent, “Rhetorical Theory and the Production of Literature.” Renaissance Society of America (virtual), April 2021